By Jay D. Prince
While I am an avid player of squash, I am not a parent of junior squash players. Neither of my kids have taken up the game. Yes, they have both hit the ball a bit between matches when they’ve watched me play, and my son did give it a go for about a year. But both have been very active in other sports that have required the same dedication to reach high levels. So I am not immune to the highs and lows of youth sports. Far from it.
At the end of the day, however, those highs and lows are not mine, but rather my son’s and daughter’s.
My 14-year-old daughter has enjoyed playing select soccer, but her passion is for the sport of competitive cheer. Four years ago, when she and I took a father/daughter trip, we went to the Cheer Worlds at Walt Disney World. She wanted to see it in person, because she hoped to be able to compete there one day.
That day became reality last spring when her team qualified for and competed in the Worlds. It was an experience she’ll never forget. But just as our kids can reach the highest of highs, sports can quickly take them down to the lowest of lows. A month after that competition, my daughter failed to earn a spot on the same team in her cheer gym for next season. She was devastated and shed a lot of tears.
As her parent, I certainly felt badly for her. But after a couple of hours, the message we gave her was simple: she had a choice to make—either simply be upset and accept the “demotion” to a lower level team in her gym, or come up with a plan to earn her way back onto the Worlds team. After a few more hours, she presented a list of goals (mostly tumbling, as that is where she was falling short, though she is a very good tumbler) to work towards over the summer.
Six weeks later, she began nailing the tumbling skills that she was lacking (a full-twisting back-tuck…think gymnastics), and her coach promoted her back onto the team she so badly wanted to be a part of.
While all of this was going on, my 17-year-old son was playing baseball just about every day at the American Legion level. He has worked extremely hard to earn his spot as a catcher, and he has been playing his position very well. What was a bit surprising was that he exploded at the plate in the first month of the season, batting nearly .600 and leading the team in RBI and slugging percentage.
Over the course of the summer, he tailed off a bit with the bat, but his ability to handle the chores behind the dish have been fun to watch.
Despite his successes on the diamond, he has been talking about hanging up his gear after this season rather than continuing to play next year. He simply doesn’t have the passion for the game any longer and feels ready to walk away.
I have had lots of talks with him about baseball, having been his coach until he was 12-years-old, and then continuing to help him with throwing mechanics and a few things about batting (my strengths as a former player in college). He can’t really explain why he wants to stop playing; just doesn’t want to play anymore.
Today, my son wrapped up a baseball tournament in Lake Tahoe. Catching, he threw out a couple of would-be base stealers; took a good collision at the plate and hung on to the ball to nail another runner; and blocked a lot of pitches in the dirt. Batting he was two-for-two with a 2-run double to deep center field. His team lost, but he walked off the field with his head held high knowing he had just played his last game. What a way to go out.
I’ve felt nothing but pride in the way my kids have handled the adversities and successes they’ve had. Both have worked very hard to be successful, but it’s that effort that have brought the biggest smile to my face. They’ve earned everything they’ve gotten from sports, and if my son is done after a bases-clearing double, I’m good with that. It’s his choice.